More on Bolivia

Bolivia faces major development challenges and remains one of the poorest countries in Latin America. Out of its 11 million people, 39 percent live below the poverty line (UDAPE 2015), and the level of undernourishment in Bolivia is the highest in South America at 15.9 percent (SOFI, 2015). On the Global Hunger Index, Bolivia’s measurement was the highest across South America and third-highest in the Latin America-Caribbean region, after Haiti and Guatemala.

What are the current issues in Bolivia?

  • Poverty

    Lack of income is the main cause of food insecurity in Bolivia. The income of 40 percent of the total population – 59 percent in rural areas – isn’t sufficient to meet basic food needs. This jumps to 72 percent for households in the most food-insecure municipalities where 63 percent of households cannot provide the recommended minimum caloric intake.

  • Malnutrition and stunting

    According to the ESNUT 2012, 18.1 percent of Bolivian children under 5 years of age are affected by chronic malnutrition, especially in rural areas, with significant gaps between children living in urban areas and those living in rural areas. The prevalence of chronic malnutrition reaches 25.2 percent in the rural area and 14.2 percent in the urban area.

  • Erratic climate

    Much of the largely rural and indigenous population depends heavily on subsistence agriculture; during the lean seasons, people suffer food shortages while droughts or floods make agriculture an unreliable source of income. These factors affect the nutritional status of children, increasing the chronic malnutrition levels.

What is the World Food Programme doing in Bolivia?

Under its 2013-2017 Country Programme, WFP has focused on three major fields of activity, which have been identified through Government consultations: i) strengthening food and nutrition interventions, particularly for the most food-insecure populations; ii) disaster-risk reduction, humanitarian assistance and climate-change adaptation; and iii) promoting diversified food production, dietary diversity and marketing conditions favorable to small farmers.

The Country Programme is conducted in three very different Departments: the Department of Pando (in the Amazon basin), the Department of Chuquisaca (Valley), and the Department of Tarija (Chaco). The latest emergency response operations concentrated in areas of floods and droughts, with a tendency to use cash-based transfers (CBT) as the preferred response mechanism.

The Country Programme of WFP, which has worked in Bolivia since 1963, has three main components:

  • Sustainable and Productive School Meals

    WFP aims, through school meals, to increase primary school enrolments and ensure completion; alleviate short-term hunger and prevent micronutrient deficiencies in school children; provide technical assistance to link farmers to markets by purchasing local food products when possible for school feeding.

    Breakfast is provided to 40,000 schoolchildren each year, complementing lunch food distributed by the municipality, giving parents an incentive to send their children to school while also improving their nutrition. The food basket includes 100 grams of iron-fortified wheat flour, 20 grams of vegetable oil fortified with vitamin A, and 3 grams of iodized salt.

    By gradually involving small farmers in supplying food for municipal schools, while providing technical assistance to boards, municipal authorities and farmers, WFP and its partners hope to make school meals programmes more sustainable. It is expected that by the third year of implementation, municipalities will provide all school food rations and whenever possible, purchase this food from local farmers.

  • Strengthening Government Nutrition Programmes

    WFP is improving the nutritional status of pregnant and lactating women in certain communities where more than 45 percent of children aged under five are stunted. In coordination with the Ministry of Health, WFP complements the Government’s Bono Juana Azurduy (BJA) conditional cash transfer programme with blanket supplementary feeding for 4,000 of these women per year.

    To complement family meals and provide additional micronutrients, vegetable oil and fortified supplementary foods such as “Supercereal” are distributed to women attending health centers and receiving nutrition education. WFP works with health centers and municipalities to ensure that the BJA programme provides both “Nutribebé” – a fortified complementary food - to children aged 6–23 months and the cash incentive to pregnant and lactating women. Results are monitored through the national health information system and used to inform government nutrition policies.

  • Livelihood Development and Disaster Risk Reduction

    Through food-for-assets (FFA) and cash-based transfer (CBT) activities, WFP supports the development of productive assets to enhance livelihoods and supply local food-based safety net programmes, strengthening communities’ resilience by mitigating shocks and adapting to climate change by creating assets that protect communities’ livelihoods – such as water reservoirs, dykes, forestation, water harvesting infrastructure and terraces. Subject to resource availability, 30,000 beneficiaries per year can be assisted and activities are supported according to demand and channeled through local governments, which contribute with local resources.

    Local government staff is trained in selecting community proposals, based on criteria for determining beneficiaries and activity types. Preference is given to the most vulnerable, including subsistence or landless farmers and households headed by women or elderly people.

    To support the National Strategy to Strengthen the Emergency Preparedness and Response System, WFP is providing the Government with technical assistance in emergency preparedness and response, including exploring the effects of climate change and other crises affecting food security.

Featured Bolivia publications

  • Bolivia: WFP Country Brief (PDF, 416 KB)

    A Country Brief provides the latest snapshot of the country strategy, operations, operational highlights (achievements and issues/challenges), partnerships and country background.

Looking for more publications on Bolivia? Visit the Bolivia publications archive.